Desperately Seeking: Cooking Inspiration

by April 27, 2012 at 2:00 pm 2,174 0


Asparagus at the farmers markets. (Alejandra Owens)

From Alejandra Owens. You can find her at her food blog, One Bite At A Time. Alejandra also writes for City Eats DC, a Food Network site, where you can book dinner reservations. Follow her on Twitter at @frijolita and email her at alejandra[AT]

Do you ever wonder where foodie types get all their inspiration? It’s true, there are some among us who walk the stalls of the farmers markets every Sunday positively oozing with culinary inspiration. Some can reach back into the recesses of their minds and pull out recipes, recalling their time at culinary school or a cooking class or some recipe they saw in Gourmet magazine in 1997.

And then there’s the rest of us. Who might need a little prodding, some inspiration and likely a kick in the rear to set us off on our adventures. Having a bit of an insider’s view as to how this cadre of the culinary mafia develops recipes, I’m here to offer you a few tips for where we get our inspiration.

  1. Blogs – There are big national blogs to follow, but I prefer reading DC’s finest first. If you need a list to start with, take a look at our archive of weekly farmers market posts! We try to feature local food blogger’s recipes as often as we can. Don’t just read what they wrote this week though, look back to this month last year, or the year before. Most folks are blogging about seasonal trends, whether they’re from the farmers market or dishes featured in restaurants.
  2. Cookbooks – One of my favorite cookbooks is Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food. The reason I love this book so much is for its no muss, no fuss approach to ingredients. When I’m walking around the market, sometimes all I see are ingredients and I need an idea for how I can include them in a larger dish. Waters will help you do just that.
  3. Magazines Online – Gourmet is out of print, Saveur can be expensive or seem out of reach and subscribing to Bon Appetit sounds like a nice idea but you’re probably not going to use it as often as you should. Don’t fret, all these mags have superb online search functions. My first spot for searching recipes online is often Saveur does a fabulous job of mixing their own articles/recipes with recipes from like-minded bloggers across the country. Also, their recipes are much more accessible and simple than you would think.
  4. Eating Out – Chefs are an artistic lot, so why not leech a little creativity off them? When dining out it’s important to be adventurous – whatever your definition of adventurous is. Even if it’s “not ordering chicken,” it’s important to try something new so you can try new flavors, a new herb or protein and see how one of the pros does it! Don’t be afraid to ask what’s in a dish, or even for the recipe. The truth is, these are aren’t state secrets and most chefs realize you will never make it as well as they do so many are willing to share.
  5. Traveling – My #1 rule for eating when I travel is this: if I can get it at home, I’m not getting it here. Why waste your money when you’re traveling on a chain or eating the same old stuff you get at home? If you’re in Chicago, go look for Chicago-style pizza! If you’re in Tucson, seek out the littlest hole in the wall Mexican food joint you can find. It takes some effort, but I promise, the internet is here to help. And you know, foodie types love telling stories about “that moussaka they had on a tiny island in Greece made by a little old lady” they’re always trying to replicate.
  6. Pinterest – Oh it’s just alllll the rage right now! You’re too cool for Pinterest! I know, you’re a hipster who’s already looking for the next Pinterest. But for the rest of us, this is a wonderful source of ideas and inspiration. Follow your friends, follow your favorite bloggers, search “kale” — there’s a bazillion ways to find new and interesting dishes to make. Heed these warnings though: things will look far more perfect and beautiful on Pinterest than they will in real life, and you do not have to put every dish you make in a mason jar.

I think it goes without saying that inspiration can be found just about anywhere — maybe in some art or from your mom or friends. Sometimes we forget an idea is likely just a tweet, phone call or Google search away.

Where do you guys get your cooking inspiration from? I’m always looking for new places to poke around for recipes and ideas, so please share in the comments! And don’t forget, if you have cooking or market questions, ping me on Twitter — I’m @frijolita.

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